The NHL has been carrying a series on their website called “30-in-15” detailing each team in the league over the final 15 days until the 2013-14 season begins. The San Jose Sharks were the subject on Wed., Sept. 25.
As expected, their preview was thorough. It talked about the strong finish to the 2013 season. It broke down the blue line, forwards and goalies. It featured links to other articles related to the team.
For the most part, their analysis was on-target. Their personnel assessments were spot-on. They broke down the prospect pool, roles of each player and covered injuries—a problem during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
They should have gone more in-depth on the last issue that has always been a problem for the Sharks. Martin Havlat has always struggled to stay healthy enough to play. He and Raffi Torres appear to be headed for at least November before they can be expected to return. Brad Stuart has yet to practice during training camp.
One thing they did not cover was how the Sharks would be better than the teams they could not beat last season. Perhaps having the team together from the start would have given them home ice to propel them over their Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings. Given Chicago’s dominance the last time they faced off in a Western Conference final and in three games during 2013 there is little reason to expect San Jose would have put up much more of a fight against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the next round.
That third round has been the ceiling in seasons when the Sharks were at the top of the talent pool. An examination of not only the units covered on NHL.com, but also their coaching and potential to add talent shows that appears to be their ceiling on paper, too.
The San Jose Sharks have one of the top coaching staffs in the NHL. Todd McLellan has been a champion in the minor leagues, and has the team focused on the right goals. He supports his players but is not afraid to be critical of even the top players.
More than anything, he has an elite assistant staff. Larry Robinson has won enough Stanley Cup rings for one role or another to for another hand, including one as head coach. Jim Johnson is an excellent defensive coach, and Jay Woodcroft may be the best video coach in the NHL.
The San Jose Sharks are desperately thin at forward until Raffi Torres and Martin Havlat return. They will field a decent fourth line and have a top-tier pivot on the third line, but at least one scoring-line role will be left to an unknown.
That could make the team very deep at this position once the Stanley Cup playoffs role around, however. The interesting thing will be to see if any new lines can gel, as each will start out with someone new.
The San Jose Sharks should have everyone healthy on a deep unit by October. The top five positions seem locked up to (in order of probable ice time) Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brad Stuart, Justin Braun and Matt Irwin. The last spot has Scott Hannan, Jason Demers and Matt Tennyson all worthy of an every-day role.
Because of that depth, the Sharks are unlikely to need either their talented prospects like Taylor Doherty or to have Brent Burns move back to the blue line to fill in.
The San Jose Sharks have the only active goalie in the NHL to be both a Stanley Cup winner and Vezina Trophy finalist in the last four seasons. He has carried the load for long, effective stretches before but never a full season.
The Sharks need either Alex Stalock or Harri Sateri to step up, perhaps playing one of the two games during the 10 times San Jose plays on back-to-back dates. They need to be able to earn more than a point per game in those contests that will often be against the weaker of those two opponents.
The San Jose Sharks are likely to have some cap space because of a forward or two going on long-term injured reserve. They also have the potential to move one of their two young backup goalies and maybe even a blue-line prospect. They can also always give up picks, but should be looking at dealing only mid-round selections.
Add to that some expiring San Jose contracts and aging core players and it spells a significant trade deadline addition. Doug Wilson may see the timing is right to go back to that well.